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 > Technical Articles: / BMW E36 3-Series (1992-1999) >
Replacing Lenses and Bulbs on Your BMW

Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing Lenses and Bulbs on Your BMW


1 hour1 hr






8mm socket and driver, flatblade screwdriver, 8mm socket and driver

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)

Parts Required:

Front clear corner lights, orange bulbs, rear taillight lens assemblies and orange bulbs

Performance Gain:

Better looking and better functioning front corner lights and taillights

Complementary Modification:

Replace the headlights
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

There are few projects that are as easy, yet so dramatic in appearance as lens replacement. Replacing old, faded lenses not only improves the overall look of your car, it increases its safety as well. Faded lenses tend to be harder to see and block much more light than brand-new lenses. On the front of the E36, the corner lenses can be removed simply by sliding them forward; a plastic snap tab holds them in place. Don't use too much force, though, or you may break this small tab. On the E30, the small turn signal lenses can easily be removed with a few small screws.

The rear lenses are very easy to remove, too; they are simply held on with screws you can access in the rear trunk. Remove the black plastic inside cover and you should have easy access to the screws and the bulbs.

The third brake light is also accessible from the rear of the trunk. Simply pop off the cover on the top of the trunk, and you should have easy access to the bulb.

If you are replacing bulbs, a word of caution: Make sure you replace your old bulbs with the same exact style and wattage as the originals. Swapping in higher-wattage bulbs could damage your wiring and possibly melt your lens and bulb holder.

If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Figure 1

On a white car, clear lenses really look their best. For some reason, OEM amber lenses just don't cut it. In order to maintain legal standards, though, you must run orange bulbs inside the lenses. This can cause the lens to take on an orange hue. I recommend a product called Stealth Bulbs (inset), available online at These bulbs are silver-coated on the outside but glow bright orange when electricity is applied. They look clear when installed in the clear lenses but retain the orange illumination required for U.S. roads.

Figure 2

Removal of the rear tail lamp is easy. Simply use an 8-millimeter socket and driver to remove the four nuts that hold on the rear assembly. Then push out the assembly and pull from the opposite side (lower right). If all you need to do is change bulbs, simply twist them out of their sockets and pull (lower left).

Figure 3

The front clear corners look great on white cars as well. Here you can see the Stealth Bulbs installed with no orange glow. To remove the lens, simply pull on it toward the front of the car. It rides in a slot in the frame, so don't try to pry it out from the side. The bulb on the inside simply clips into the lens. The inset photo shows the back side of the corner lens.

Comments and Suggestions:
Hutch Comments: 1997 318i E36. When the lights are switched on, whenever I engage the turn signal for left turns, the high beam comes on. Left turns only, not right. Do i need to replace the entire stalk/switch?
November 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It sounds like it. Unless the wiring harness is shorted. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Joe Comments: I have a 1996 BMW 328i.. The drivers side Rear running light works fine. The passenger side light will not illuminate when I turn the lights on. replacing the bulbs will not help and they still don't work. Are they on separate fuses?

September 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The share a fuse. The issue may be with the bulb-out module. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Pete Comments: I have a 93 e36. the front right headlight stopped working. I was cheching the wires and the metal shaft coming off the wires do not stay. I have thrre wires but 4 posts. don't which one goes to which. Are there any wiring diagrams? I cant get the car inspected and cant drive at night. Please help?
May 3, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have that diagram. I would grab a repair manual. It will have it.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
stone Comments: how to replace a low beam ballaster on a 2001 bmw x5 3.0
April 19, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: See this tech article: - Nick at Pelican Parts
Ram Comments: How do I replace the fog light assembly on a 2006 BMW X3 3.0i
August 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: We don't currently have that tech article. I would grab a repair manual. It will have the procedure, special tools and torque specs.

Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. - Nick at Pelican Parts
dhm Comments: How do I replace the low beam sealed beam headlights on a 1982 BMW 320is?
January 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try this tech article: - Nick at Pelican Parts
Hondo78 Comments: How do I replace the front turn signal on my 325I Wagon, Car was built on 6/2002. Cars need new head light lenses too. Read something about baking them to separate the clear plexiglass covers..
October 28, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is a small hole in the fender just above where the turn signal lens is, use a Phillips screw driver to loosen the screw, it doesn't come out, and slide the lens out towards the front of the car.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
cristof Comments: I bought a set of headlights and tail lights for a 95 318i. and they dont want to work for anything! the taillights have LED inserts as well as normal filament bulbs, they are blowing fuses, i cant find resistor packs for the LED's. anywhere i can find some? The lights are Eagle eyes brand. Also when i plug the headlights in the high beams won't turn off. then the fuse blows for them as well. They are not factory bulbs installed, i believe they are h3's any conversion i could do? or maybe try to fab factory bulbs into them? any help would be great! thanks again.
May 21, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like the lights are not wired correctly, I would contact the company that made them and see what they have to say.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
LK Comments: I have a 2002 X5. I need to replace the front bulb that is stuck at the corner of the vehicle. It is part of the left turn signal system. You cannot simply twist off the existing bulb because there is not a free space to do that. I have tried removing the entire assembly from the front but not successful. Any recommendations?
October 26, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The headlight does have to come out to replace that bulb, and depending on the trim level of the car the front bumper cover might have to come off to do it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Josh Comments: Hello, I was wondering if you could tell me what the plug for the front left turn signal light is called, and where I can get a replacement. I bought a 1994 BMW 325i, and the wires that go into the plug are loose and the plug itself is gone. Also, there is a strange looking plug thing that is yellow, and it has a metal-looking rod coming out of it. Any idea what that could be?

October 13, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It is called a bulb socket housing, Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Ironclaw Comments: I'm thinking about buying an LED tail lamp kit to replace the OEM lites on my 2004 330I....The on-line company touts that the kit is made for the yr/make/model, any ideas if I can simply change these out with no electrical-related problems or considerations?
April 7, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not sure if it will give you trouble on your car, but sometimes replacing the lamps with these LED kits confuses the alert system that tells you that you have a brake lamp out. Some of the kits, I have heard, give false alerts once they are installed. I'm not sure if that will happen in your case, but it's worth thinking about. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Doug Comments: How do I replace the license plate bulb on my 95 M3? Thanks!
December 21, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You should be able to remove the small lense from the trunk, I believe by sliding it to the right. The instructions should be in the owner's manual. Be sure to use the correct wattage bulb when you replace it, otherwise you may continue to get a "license plate blub" out warning message. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
alex Comments: this still does not advise you how to get the part just below the lens off on 05's, my neighbor actually was able to assist me. thanks anyway.
July 9, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. We appreciate it.

- Nick at Pelican Parts

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